Overview. Who are progressives? An analogy.
Progressive Christianity is not a denomination. It has no central authority.
It consists of:
A Christian wing within Unitarian Universalism
||Organizations promoting a network of affiliated congregations, informal
groups and individuals.
||Some independent congregations
||Individuals within liberal, mainline and even a few conservative
||Websites and blogs of all types.
Progressives tend to:
||Stress social justice matters and civil rights concerns, including
equality of opportunity and treatment for persons of all genders, sexual
orientations, gender identities, etc.
||Oppose war as a solution to international conflicts.
||Minimize the importance of religious dogma, church creeds, and religious
||Promote the separation of religion and government (a.k.a. church and
The Center for Progressive Christianity (TCPC) 1 is
one of the leading groups promoting a network of progressives. It was
founded in 1996 by a retired Episcopalian priest, James Adams, in Cambridge, MA.
In an era where the loudest and most visible Christian voices are from
fundamentalist and other Evangelical denominations and para-church
organizations, the mission of The Center for Progressive Christianity is:
"To reach out to those for whom organized religion has proved
ineffectual, irrelevant, or repressive, as well as to those who have given up
on or are unacquainted with it."
"To uphold evangelism as an agent of justice and peace."
"To give a strong voice both in the churches and the public arena to
the advocates of progressive Christianity. "
"To support those who embrace the search, not certainty."
These mission statements would probably resonate with many progressive Christians.
What kind of people are attracted to Progressive Christianity?
Progressive Christianity casts a very broad tent. Within the TCPC, for
example, all people are welcome as
affiliates. Their fourth point invites:
"....all people to participate in our
community and worship life without insisting that they become like us in order
to be acceptable (including but not limited to): believers and agnostics,
conventional Christians and questioning skeptics, women and men, those of all
sexual orientations and gender identities, those of all races and cultures,
those of all classes and abilities, those who hope for a better world and those
who have lost hope."
Most progressive Christians probably view religious belief as a
process -- a searching for truth rather than establishing truth. Most are
probably liberal Christians or post-Christians who stress justice and tolerance
above creedal beliefs.
They include people who:
Are repelled by exclusivist beliefs. They
concept that only their branch of their religion has the entire monopoly on truth,
and that all other spiritual paths are in error. Passing beyond biblical
inerrancy, established creeds, and church dogma, they recognize, as author
Jack Good has written: "the fingerprints of humankind on all religious documents
and symbols." 3
||Value the search for truth, even though it can never be fully possessed.
They view it as more
important and challenging than the acceptance of those fixed beliefs found in the
past by others and imbedded in church creeds.
Who are, as Jack Good describes, "chaos tolerant:" They can
handle a degree of disorder, uncertainty, and ambiguity in life and want to be
"partners in the exciting search for tentative but satisfying answers to
the most pressing problems of existence."
Believe in the Ethic of Reciprocity a.k.a. the
Golden Rule: that how
we treat other people is more important than the specifics of what we believe
about God, humanity and the rest of the universe.
||Have the ability to absorb rapid change in their beliefs, as they
integrate findings from social and physical sciences.
On the TCPC web site, they have a charming story that symbolizes the methodology
of the Progressive Christianity movement. It involves a Sunday school teacher
class of 9 or 10-year-olds. Even at that age, some were skeptical of the inerrancy of the Bible. They felt that many events
recorded in the Bible never
happened. Rather then try to convince the children otherwise, the teacher
suggested that they read Charlotte's Web instead -- an enduring story of
a bashful pig named Wilbur who befriended a spider named Charlotte. The class
enjoyed the book. After some great discussions, the teacher interjected the
thought that pigs and spiders cannot talk. The kids protested: "Well, it's a
story." The teacher asked whether the story was true. They decided that it
was sort of true. "In a way, it was true." So the teacher suggested: "All
right, well let's look at the Bible in the same way." 4
For the movement's
founder, James Adams:
"Such open-ended and searching conversations are at the heart of
what it means to be religious. They are the very thing he hopes to foster
through the work of his small, but visionary organization. Education is at the
core of the Center's work, but it is a vision of education that calls for
open-ended conversation, the use of scholarship and intellectual gifts, as well
as personal experience and emotion."
Progressive Christianity movement's home page is at: http://www.tcpc.org/ Their address is The Center for Progressive Christianity,
4916 Pt. Fosdick Dr., NW #148, Gig Harbor, WA 98335. Telephone: 253-303-0022.
"The mission of the Center for Progressive Christianity is..." at: http://www.tcpc.org/about/mission.html
Jack Good, "The Dishonest Church" Rising Star Press, (2003). Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com
online book store
E.B. White, "Charlotte's Web," HarperTrophy, (reprinted 1999). Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com
online book store
"The 8 points: 2003 version," at: http://www.tcpc.org/
Copyright ? 2003 to 2009 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Originally written: 2003-SEP-28
Latest update: 2009-NOV-02
Author: B.A. Robinson